Margaret Brodkin, former DCYF director, honored as 'Community Builder'

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By Rebecca Bowe

A little more than a month after Mayor Gavin Newsom asked former Department of Children, Youth and their Families director Margaret Brodkin to step down from her post, community support for her work is still very much in place. At an annual fundraising event called Soul of the City, hosted by the San Francisco Organizing Project on Feb. 23, Brodkin was honored with a Community Builder Award.

Brodkin, who is currently serving as director of the New Day for Learning Initiative, a project aimed at galvanizing efforts for a more just and comprehensive educational system in the city, thanked the crowd who had gathered at a Mission District restaurant for the Soul of the City celebration. But she also expressed disappointment about being removed from her position at DCYF, which she was appointed to in 2004. “I lost a job that I was very devoted to and felt I’d lived a lifetime to do,” she said. On the day that she was asked to step down, the mayor’s office issued a press release to put a good face on it, but Coleman Advocates for Children & Youth worried that her dismissal set the stage for a “possible raid, erosion, or elimination of the children’s fund and other critical services for our kids and families.”

Meanwhile, members of SFOP and others working on education issues in the city are gearing up for tough work ahead on pending budget cuts that could affect schools and youth programs. The coalition has had success in the past: Last April, the organizing project spearheaded an effort to protect the jobs of 535 teachers from seven schools in the county whose employment was threatened by state budget cuts. Facing pressure from parents and teachers, city officials agreed to release $20 million from the city’s Rainy Day Reserve to reinstate the teachers’ salaries. But with the dismal financial landscape on the state and local levels, another battle looms ahead. “How can I tell my daughter to do the best she can when the education is not available?” asked Michelle Antone, a SFOP community leader, whose daughter attends school at Sanchez College Preparatory School.